100 years of queer nyc art from greer lankton to robert mapplethorpe

'Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York' celebrates the radical creativity of queer artists in the face of oppression, through photographs, illustrations, and personal ephemera.

by Hannah Ongley
07 October 2016, 5:10pm

cecil beaton, 'andy warhol and candy darling,' 1969

From downtown Pride marches to the ballrooms of Harlem and the South Bronx, New York City's history is hugely informed by its status as a beacon for queer creativity. A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York will explore this through 100 years of artistic LGBTQ expression and the relationships it birthed. Through photographs, illustrations, and iconography, Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York celebrates art that has oftentimes remained hidden even throughout LGBTQ history's most well-documented eras. Visitors will likely be familiar with Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Leonard Bernstein, and Mae West, the Bushwick-born Hollywood sex symbol who was a gay icon for seven decades. Lesser-known but still important figures include lesbian feminist artist Harmony Hammond and genderqueer doll-maker Greer Lankton, the East Village icon who created theatrical installations for the windows of East 7th Street boutique Einstein's. 

Whitney Elite, Ira Ebony, Stewart and Chris LaBeija, Ian and Jamal Adonis, Ronald Revlon, House of Jourdan Ball, New Jersey, 1989 

Gay Gotham celebrates not just a community but the relationships that emerged through its thriving art scene: Warhol and Mercedes de Acosta; Mapplethorpe and Cecil Beaton; fashion photographer George Platt Lynes and his playwright friend Gertrude Stein. Also included in the exhibition are letters, snapshots, and ephemera — often scandal-provoking — that highlight the importance of solidarity and personal bonds in the face of oppression. 

"Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York" is on view at the Museum of the City of New York from October 7, 2016 through February 26, 2017. 

Carl Van Vechten "Alvin Ailey," 1955 

"Muscleboy," March/April 1965 Collection of Kelly McKaig 

Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deb Margolin performing as Split Britches in Upwardly Mobile Home, 1984 

Carl Van Vechten, "Anna May Wong," 1932


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of Museum of the City of New York

Andy Warhol
Robert Mapplethorpe
Museum of the City of New York
gay gotham
gay gotham: art and underground culture in new york
mercedes de acosta
culture in new york
gay gotham: art and underground